“Some things are a blessing in disguise. If I hadn’t have gone through it myself and seen where the gaps are, I would never have founded Night Ninjas,” says Alix. “I’m now able to fill some of those gaps.”
It takes a special kind of person to see the positives in homelessness. For some months at the end of 2014, Alix and her two children found themselves with no home, couch surfing in friends’ living rooms and with no idea how to reverse their fortunes and navigate those “astronomical gaps” in the housing system.
“Nobody would touch me,” the Redlands, QLD, local recalls of her meetings with potential landlords. “They always take the workers over a single mum on the dole.”
Eventually, an estate agent offered her a two-bedroom apartment, taking a chance on Alix and giving her support when it was so desperately needed. From that day in 2015, Alix was determined to pay the good deed forward.
She wrote a single social media post asking if anyone knew of homeless people who needed food, clothing and assistance and within four hours needed to create a dedicated page to cope with the avalanche of offers of help that came her way. Night Ninjas was born.
“We started off doing walkabouts in the evenings, calling out under bridges and behind buildings and skips. We would say ‘Hello, is anyone hungry, we’ve got food, we’re here to assist,’” she recalls. “Over time we just grew and grew and grew.”
The not-for-profit organisation now has 48 registered volunteers and Alix is nominated for Australian of the Year. From help with the housing system to providing hot meals for the homeless to giving infirm and isolated people company, the team has together assisted more than a thousand needy people in the Redlands area.
“Every case is so individual, we just see a need and we fill it,” says Alix. “Need is not discriminatory of age or gender or employment.”
Those needs, hidden from the daily lives of most people, appear to be endless. A cooking team fills people’s freezers. Alix has found a home for a lady who, at age 84, became homeless. She accompanies illiterate parolees to Centrelink, filling in their forms for them and helping with their transition from prison. When accommodation can’t be found, she gives homeless people “street swags” to keep them warm and dry. She knows working women who sleep in their cars, parking together at night for some level of protection. One family with children was found sleeping in a tent on the median strip of a major road. In February alone, the organisation took on 56 new clients and gave out 187 meals - all with no government funding, relying on donations to survive.
The demands don’t end when Alix heads home each day. One of her children is special needs and requires constant care. Delegation, she laughs, is not something that comes to her easily.
Night Ninjas now works with hostels, the council, Police, social workers and “just so many people” who connect to address the problems that Alix says are vast. Her aim is to launch a dedicated drop-in centre, where anyone can find a hot shower, a meal, activities, services and the help they have found hard to come by. And, as she works to improve the lives of others, Alix remembers how it feels to hit rock bottom.
“I was at the counter of the housing department with my two children, in tears, going ‘Help, help.’ Flash forward a year and a half and I’m behind the scenes in housing offices, being offered tea. It is very surreal, I can’t even explain the feeling.”